“These men and women were not hardened criminals”, said Obama, who is expected to announce more details about changes to the criminal justice system during a speech to the NAACP in Philadelphia on Tuesday. “The President’s actions today are welcome, but we need much more action”, said Michael Collins, policy manager at DPA’s office of national affairs. It is not as fair as it should be.
“In the American tradition and in the immigrant tradition of remaking ourselves, in the Christian tradition that says none of us is without sin and all of us need redemption, justice and redemption go hand in hand”, Obama said. Obama then quoted Paul’s statement that imprisoning large numbers of non-violent drug offenders for long periods of time, ‘”Costs the taxpayers money, without making them any safer”. “We should not be tolerating gang activity in prison”, the president said.
And he spoke bluntly about the conditions inside USA prisons – including prison rape and solitary confinement – which he said “have no place in any civilized country”. “That’s no joke. These things are unacceptable”.
While some Republicans in Congress are showing new interest in criminal justice legislation, not all Republican legislators saw the president’s commutations as a positive step.
The lucky 46 are a tiny fraction of the 30,000 other offenders who also hope to have their onerous and unfair sentences commuted by the president.
Obama ticked off statistics showing that the USA prison population has quadrupled since 1980 and doubled in the last two decades alone. “Give judges sentencing discretion around nonviolent crimes so that potentially we could move the person who has made a mistake in a better direction”.
Lenore Anderson, who co-authored Proposition 47 and serves as the executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, said voter attitudes had shifted decisively on the issue, and the goal of the proposition was “We could finally put the nail in the coffin that the only way to talk about criminal justice was with a “tough on crime” lens”. Mike Lee, R-Utah –introduced a measure that would retroactively apply changes in crack cocaine sentencing laws to prisoners who were incarcerated years ago.
He said lengthy mandatory minimum sentences should be reduced – or thrown out entirely. At that time, the nonprofit coalition effort was looking for volunteers to help process cases that were examples of over-sentencing under former mandatory minimum laws. The Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy organization with close ties to the White House and Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, has teamed up with Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by the conservative brothers Charles G. and David H. “We’ve got to speak to the moment, but more than that, we’ve got to act on it”.
The commutations were part of a larger effort to reform the criminal justice system by reviewing sentencing laws and guidelines, as well as reducing punishments for non-violent crimes, according to the White House.
He noted that African Americans and Latinos disproportionately make up most of the prison population.